First, not all fats are created equal. A simple way of thinking about dietary fats is to break them up into the good, the bad, and the essential. Based on this categorization, I deal with dietary fats using a three-pronged approach:
- Start with making sure you get the essential fats you need.
- Cut out unnecessary bad fat.
- When possible, substitute good fats for bad fats.
There are two sets of essential fats that your body needs from your diet: linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Linoleic acid belongs to a family of fats called omega-6 fatty acids, while linolenic acid belongs to a family of fats known as omega-3 fatty acids. While both are essential, the fats that most people need to focus on incorporating into their diet are omega-3 fatty acids. The reason for this is that dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids such as cooking oils are so abundant in the typical American diet that most people get enough of them even without trying. Also, there is evidence that a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is associated with inflammation and higher risk of many diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
On the other hand, a recent study showed that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their bloodstream lived longer and had less fatal heart disease. Unfortunately, many people do not get adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, canola oil, and seafood. The richest source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish. And while many people have heard about the benefits of eating fish, they may be concerned about the risks of mercury exposure from fish consumption.
In fact, regular but modest fish consumption provides essential fats and significant health benefits with negligible risk. Eating one to two 6 ounce servings of fish per week reduces the risk of death by 17% and the risk of death from heart disease by 36%. Particularly rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies. You can reduce your risk of mercury exposure by eating smaller fish that are lower on the food chain such as salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, pollock, and catfish.
How To Steam a Whole Fish
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Here is the link that I used to prepare the fish in the above video:
De Lorgeril M & Salen P. New insights into the health effects of dietary saturated and omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. MC Med. 2012.
Simopoulos AP. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Exp Biol Med. 2008.
Mozaffarian D et al. Plasma phospholipid long-chain w-3 fatty acids and total and cause-specific mortality in older adults. Ann Intern Med 2013;158:515-525.
Mozaffarian D & Rimm E. Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits. JAMA. 2006;296:1885-1899.